Ever since 2001, the Seattle Mariners have relied on one player to consistently get on base and to score runs.
Ichiro Suzuki is now starting to show his age, 35 years old, on the baseball field. Sure, his team in the World Baseball Classic, Japan, is doing rather well, but Ichiro has not done well. Right now he is posting a .214 batting average for Team Japan, not quite his typical .340 batting average.
But, what was his stats in the 2006 World Baseball Classic? Back then, he had a typical .364 average.
For the first time, Ichiro may not be able to complete usual tasks. Those tasks include hitting .300 with 200 hits, something he has done every season since coming to Seattle.
Without Ichiro in the Mariners lineup, they lose a valuable leadoff hitter, if not the best in the major leagues. I don't know of any hitters that can take his place on the Mariners' roster. Then again, I can only think of one player that can match his speed, defense, and hitting ability, Jose Reyes.
On the bright side, many of the Mariners in the World Baseball Classic have been doing well.
Kenji Johjima-.375 BA, one HR, and one SB in 24 at-bats
Jose Lopez-.500 BA and two HRs in 20 at-bats
Felix Hernandez-2-0, 0.00 ERA, and 11 SO in 8.2 innings pitched
Carlos Silva-1-0, 0.82 ERA, and 6 SO in 11 innings pitched
Endy Chavez-.368 BA and 0 home runs in 19 at-bats
Jose Lopez is playing better, in the WBC, than Miguel Cabrera, Bobby Abreu, David Wright, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Chipper Jones.
Is this Jose Lopez's season to become a baseball great as I predicted this offseason? Let's look at some facts for a second:
Using his post-All-Star Break numbers, Lopez would have hit about .305 with 29 home runs if he played the entire 2008 season.
This offseason he has obviously bulked up, yet it has not affected his running.
So, if he keeps up his work ethic and has talented hitters around him, Lopez can easily become an All-Star second baseman.